And the association increased as the number of partners -- in either category -- increased.
The researchers also reported that cancers of the tonsil and base of the tongue have been increasing every year since 1973, and wrote that "widespread oral sex practices among adolescents may be a contributing factor in this increase."
The researchers concluded that in their study, oral sex was "strongly associated" with oropharyngeal cancer, but noted that they could not "rule out transmission through direct mouth-to-mouth contact" such as French kissing.
In 90 percent of cases of HPV infection in the body, the immune system clears HPV naturally within two years, according to federal health agencies, but in some cases, certain types of HPV can lead to cervical cancer or less common malignancies, such as oropharyngeal cancer. A 2010 Swedish study, in fact, suggested that the rise in oropharyngeal squamous cell cancer in a number of countries "is caused by a slow epidemic of HPV infection-induced [cancers]."
HPV tends to be site specific, explained Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, an adjunct instructor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. In other words, it tends to stay wherever it first enters the body, be it the vagina (which in some cases could lead to cervical cancer), or the mouth and throat.
So does the increase in incidence mean that recent generations are having more sex than their grandparents?
"The general consensus on the street is that because people's [sexual] practices have changed over time, we're seeing an increase in these cancers," said Hartig. "I don't know why they're having more oral sex [but] the concept of having oral sex is something that seems less obscure to you than it did to your parents or grandparents."
"The thought would be that the Baby Boomers -- the 60s an
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